Posted By: Envision2bWell
On a global level, malnutrition is often defined by the lack of adequate food consumption, especially in developing nations. The children of these nations tend to have skinny limbs but a swollen round belly due to protein deficiencies on a diet that is mainly rice. In severe malnutrition situations, children who are malnourished suffer from marasmus or kwashiorkor, conditions where the food energy input is severely inadequate for proper growth and development. These devastating situations across the globe remind us of the importance of an adequate food supply to support a balanced diet.
Here in the United States, it can seem on the surface that we are facing the opposite problem, with an obesity epidemic. More than one-third of adult Americans are obese and one in six children in America are obese. And yet, with all the extra food consumption, many Americans are actually malnourished. Much like developing nations where children exist on a diet of rice that can’t supply the necessary nutrients for a healthy body, too many American families exist on a diet of over-processed, high-fat, sugary foods that also don’t supply needed nutrients.
“Malnutrition is a largely underrecognized and undertreated condition in patients with increased body mass index, as increased abdominal girth is too often mistaken for overnutrition rather than undernutrition,” says Dr. Andrew Freeman, director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health in Denver, CO, in an editorial in Science Direct.
Processed food is any food that has been altered in some way. Some foods, such as pre-bagged salads, are minimally processed, while others such as crackers and cookies, are heavily processed. It’s the heavily processed foods that we need to be concerned about and limit, the reason being that most of these food products are high in sugar, salt and fat, and low in nutrition and nutrients. They are ‘empty’ calories that pack on pounds but don’t nourish the body. It is estimated that more than half the calories in an average American diet come from highly processed foods.
Highly processed foods pose health risks not only because of what they lack, but also because of what they add. There are about 5,000 substances that get added to our food and most of them have never been tested by anyone other than the company using them. Heavily processed foods are typically high in calories, high in fat, and high in sugar, meaning you don’t have to eat much to hit your optimum daily caloric intake. Add in the fact that these foods are also usually high in salt, and you can see why they are so addictive, and so unhealthy.
Overconsumption of highly processed foods results in excess weight gain or obesity. It also results in malnutrition. This is a deadly combination that leads to disease in the body. In his best-selling book, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Pulitzer prize winning journalist, Michael Moss revealed how the processed food industry has spent decades and billions of dollars coming up with the perfect combination of salt, sugar and fat to keep us hooked on their products.
Beyond keeping processed foods to minimum, here are a few strategies to help you get healthy, keep the weight off, and avoid malnutrition:
Keep a calorie deficit. Food is our energy source. If we expend more energy than we consume, our bodies will shed weight. About 3500 calories of deficit is equal to a loss of a pound.
But not a huge deficit! Calorie intake is our source of energy to carry out basic functions. If you reduce calorie intake by about just 250 calories a day, you could be on track to lose about a half a pound a week. By taking more time, you are naturally incorporating healthy habits and making it a lifestyle. The goal is to get the weight off and keep it off.
Eat nutrient dense foods. Nutrient dense foods keep us fuller for longer. These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and lean meats.
Make it fun. This is a great opportunity to cook more often and create a hobby. If time is a limiting factor, a crock pot is an easy way to prepare foods that can be healthy and ready as soon as you return home from work. Also, don’t force yourself to do workouts that you hate. Do what you enjoy, this could be dancing, hiking, kickboxing, and more.
Eat the rainbow. Each color of fruit or vegetable indicates what kind of vitamins it has. If you aim to eat the rainbow every day, you will be fueling your body with all it needs to function.
As the saying goes, you are what you eat. Eating whole foods that are close to the source and minimally processed will help you maintain health, have more energy, and overall feel great.
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